In the tradition of Marcus Garvey, Kwame Nkrumah and Malcolm X, Omali Yeshitela has stepped forward to assume the role of the leader of the International African Revolution since 1972, when the African People’s Socialist Party (APSP) was formed.
Black Power in the ’60s plants seed for Uhuru Movement
A veteran of the Black Power Movement of the Sixties, Chairman Omali had participated in organizing the first membership-based Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) organization in the United States. The fact that it was a membership organization built entirely by local community forces distinguished it from the staff-based volunteer structure used by SNCC everywhere else and gave it a more similar character to the Black Panther Party which was being organized on Oakland, California during the same period.
By 1966, SNCC was under fierce assault by the U.S. government and in December of that year Chairman Omali, then known as Joe Waller, was arrested for tearing down a degrading, racist mural from the wall of the St. Petersburg, Florida city hall during a demonstration. For this courageous act, he won both the respect and admiration of the African community in St. Petersburg, as well as the fear and hatred of the white power State. He was sentenced to five years in prison.
By 1968, SNCC had been effectively destroyed, but the Black Power Movement began to take on a revolutionary character even as it was struggling around organizational form and the various ideological trends that existed within it.
It was in 1968 that Chairman Omali organized the Junta of Militant Organizations (JOMO), a Black Power Organization similar in goals and structure to the Black Panther Party which was growing in influence in California and the northern cities of the U.S. The name reflected a growing awareness of our connection with Africa. The acronym “JOMO” was appropriated from Jomo Kenyatta who was widely and mistakenly believed at that time to be the leader of the Mau Mau, the revolutionary anti-colonial organization in Kenya also known as the Land Freedom Army.
The need to identify with the Mau Mau was also influenced by our growing awareness of the African collaborators within our own domestically colonized community. The Mau Mau was known for the ruthlessness with which it dealt with those who sold out the revolution to the British colonial thugs.
It was also in 1968 that JOMO began to publish The Burning Spear, a mimeographed newsletter that a year later would become The Burning Spear Newspaper in its current form. The Spear is the only remaining African revolutionary publication from that period, making it the oldest such publication today.
It was during this period that the African working class had taken the lead in its own movement articulating our struggle as one for Black Power and control over our own lives as opposed to the petty bourgeois ideology that would claim our solution was in integration with our oppressor. The Black Power Movement had won the hearts and minds of the African population in the U.S. dealing white power an ideological and political defeat. The ideology of white supremacy could not stand against the concept of Black Power, and the white liberal ideology of philosophical non-violence was defeated as Africans in the U.S. began taking up arms to defend themselves.
In the face of this developing African revolution, which would bring U.S. imperialism to its knees and force it to pay for it’s centuries of crimes against African people and other oppressed nations, the U.S. government waged a vicious counterinsurgency to militarily crush the Black Revolution that it could no longer contend with ideologically.
One aspect of this counterinsurgency was the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s COINTELPRO which targeted “black nationalist groups and leaders” and set as one of its goals the prevention of “the rise of a ‘messiah’ who could unify and electrify the militant black nationalist movement.” The terror and brutality of the counterinsurgency had no limits as our organizations were attacked and countless leaders in our movement were assassinated. Countless more were kidnapped and imprisoned or went into exile.
JOMO, which was based in several cities in Florida and Louisville and Lexington, Kentucky, was no exception in this military assault against our movement. Along with many other leaders, Chairman Omali was constantly being imprisoned, but unlike other organizations, JOMO never entirely went underground. This would prove critical, because JOMO would maintain constant links with the masses of our people and their struggles preventing a break in continuity in our development and the development of our politics.
1972: Founding of the African People's Socialist Party
In May of 1972, at a time when the Black Liberation Movement had been destroyed as a movement and in a climate of political terror and brutal repression, Chairman Omali Yeshitela founded the African People’s Socialist Party (APSP).
The APSP was formed by the merging of three organizations. The dominant organization was JOMO because of its political experience, longer history and its base in the working class base and character. The other two organizations were the Black Rights Fighters from Ft. Myers, Florida and the Black Study Group of Gainsville, Florida. The Black Rights Fighters was an organization of migrant farm workers and organizaers, and the Black Study Group was an organization of community-based students and intellectuals.
JOMO had been making efforts to build a revolutionary party since 1969 but its efforts had been sabotaged by the U.S. counterinsurgency. On January 10, 1973, eight months after the APSP’s founding, co-founder, Central Committee member and leader of the Black Rights Fighters was assassinated by car wreck. In May of that same year, Chairman Omali was arrested and reimprisoned for the mural charge from 1966, but the Party fought fiercely and forced the government to release him within two months.
During the 1970’s, the Party had made its main goals to keep the Black Power Movement alive, defend the countless Africans locked up by the counterinsurgency, and develop relationships with Africa and Africans worldwide.
It was during this time that, under the leadership of Chairman Omali Yeshitela, the Party took on the successful campaign to free Pitts and Lee, forcing the governor of the state of Florida to releas the two African men who had been framed up and put on death row for something they didn’t do.
Through the successful campaign to free Dessie Woods, the Party built an international organization which won worldwide support for this African working class woman who was forced to defend herself against colonial violence by killing with his own gun the white man who tried to rape her.
The Party had also began developing relationships with Africans around the world. The Party built the first Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU) support committee in the U.S. touring members of ZANU around the country to raise money when the African masses in Zimbabwe were entrenched in fierce struggle against colonialism. The Party was to later develop a long-standing relationship with the Pan Africanist Congress of Azania (PAC) which, as opposed the Nelson Mandela’s neo-colonial African National Congress (ANC), really led the on-the-ground struggles against the colonial South African State.
In 1976, the Party formed the African People’s Solidarity Committee (APSC), which proved to be one of its most significant moves. For the first time in history, a revolutionary African organization was able to win white people away from their historic unity with white power and colonialism by giving them the opportunity to be organized under the leadership of the African working class.
The existence of APSC enabled the Party and the Black Revolution to win back some of our stolen resources and to build a genuinely revolutionary force within the white population which could provide solidarity with the Black Revolution in the U.S. and around the world and help to isolate and encircle the U.S. government.
In September of 1979, the African People’s Socialist Party built the African National Prison Organization (ANPO) establishing the potential to have local anti-colonial mass organizations to lead African people’s struggles in 15 states and 26 cities in the U.S.
1981: The Party's move to Oakland recharacterizes our work
In 1981, the Party moved it’s national office to Oakland, California and opened the Uhuru House. This period of Party work was characterized by the constant, relentless work that APSP was involved in. Party-led forces were in the streets everyday organizing and demonstrating against the brutal conditions that African workers were facing. As a result, for the first time since the 60’s, the needs of the African working class were back on the political agenda.
The first Party Congress was held in Oakland in 1982. It was in this Congress that the resolution to build the African Socialist International (ASI) was passed.
That same year, the African National Reparations Organization was built and the First World Tribunal on Reparations for African People was held in Brooklyn, New York. Through this work, the African People’s Socialist Party gave birth to the modern Reparations Movement.
In 1983, Tent City for the Homeless in Oakland was organized, and in 1984 the Party held the Oakland Summer Project, organized the Community Control of Housing Initiative (Measure O and Measure H), and created the Bobby Hutton Freedom Clinic. In the midst of this whirlwind of struggle in Oakland and around the U.S., Chairman Omali was often traveling to revolutionary Nicaragua or on speaking tours in the U.S.
Chairman Omali had also began touring in Europe to build the African Socialist International (ASI), an international African revolutionary organization to unite Africans fighting worldwide into a single organization critical to defeating colonialism and neo-colonialism and creating a liberated and united Africa under an all-African socialist government. The mandate to build the ASI came out of the first Party Congress of 1982.
In 1987, the popular Uhuru Bakery Cafe opened in Oakland. There was the Party-owned Spear Graphics in Oakland and St. Petersburg, the Uhuru Furniture Etc. in Oakland, and Uhuru Houses were opening in Philly, Baltimore and St. Pete.
It was also the African People’s Socialist Party who brought Huey P. Newton, co-founder of the Black Panther Party and one of the most significant leaders of the Black Revolution of the Sixties, back into political life and his last speeches were made at the Uhuru House in Oakland. After his assassination in 1989 it was the African People’s Socialist Party that held up his memory when the white ruling class media viciously slandered him with the help of even some “retired” Black Panther Party members.
During this period of incredible activity, Chairman Omali also produced his most important body of theoretical work. It was at that time that the Chairman first defined the question of parasitic capitalism — that capitalism was born of slavery, genocide and theft of resources of the African people and all oppressed peoples and that it remains parasitic today.
The Chairman’s theory brought African workers and other colonized peoples to the center stage of history changing the struggle from one against racism, the ideas in white people’s heads, to one against colonialism, the actual conditions that the ideology of racism is used to justify.
The Chairman’s theory also brought the Party and the African working class to a deeper unity and an active relationship with other colonized peoples struggling for national liberation.
1991: The necessity for a mass organization births InPDUM
By 1991, the Chairman had called for the founding of a mass organization working under the leadership of the African People’s Socialist Party to build as broadly as possible with the central goal of defeating the vicious counterinsurgency against the African community and defending the democratic rights of African people.
The International People’s Democratic Uhuru Movement (InPDUM), then called the National People’s Democratic Uhuru Movement, has raised up the demand for self-determination for African people, recognizing that self-determination is the highest form of democracy. InPDUM has been a fundamentally important organization in defining and stopping the counterinsurgency against African people.
InPDUM has taken on various campaigns including the successful campaign to free Fred Hampton’s son. Fred Hampton was the Chairman of the Illinois Chapter of the Black Panther Party and was assassinated by the U.S. government at the age of 21 while sleeping in his bed on December 4, 1969. His son, who was born three weeks later, was sentenced to 18 years on false charges and a fierce campaign to free him was waged and won.
1996: The masses rise up and rebel in St. Petersburg, Florida
In 1996, several years after the national office was moved back to St. Petersburg, Florida, the U.S. front of the African Liberation Movement hit a turning point. On October 24, a righteous rebellion of African workers sparked after St. Petersburg police gunned down 18-year-old TyRon Lewis. Lewis had been stopped by police, and while his hands were raised in surrender, policeman James Knight pumped five bullets into his body.
Enraged, young Africans in a community where the Uhuru Movement had been organizing for over 30 years took up bricks, bottles, Molotov cocktails, guns and whatever weapons they could get their hands on to drive out the murderous police. Hundreds of Africans battled fiercely against police, reduced sections of the city owned by parasitic merchants to ashes, and strategically targeted police substations for destruction.
The Uhuru Movement organized a tribunal that found the two police officers involved along with the mayor and police chief guilty of the murder of TyRon Lewis on October 30. On November 13, the grand jury exonerated the two murderous cops and the police began to pre-emptively roundup Uhuru Movement members to take the African community’s leadership off the ground. Twenty-seven members of St. Petersburg’s special weapons team were employed to lock up one member for an expired license tag.
By 6:30pm, an army of over 300 heavily armed troops from various police agencies surrounded the Uhuru House. Inside the more than 100 people attending a regular weekly meeting were trapped as police blocked the doors and shot tear gas canisters into the building and trees trying to set the building on fire.
The people then rose up in guerilla warfare, armed with anything they could find from bricks and bottles to automatic weapons, driving the police troops out. Two police were shot, a police helicopter was shot out of the sky and 35 more buildings were burned down to the ground that night. Newspapers the next day quoted the police commander screaming over his radio, “Pull the troops back, we’re under heavy fire!”
The State had attempted to wipe out the leadership of the Uhuru Movement and the masses of African workers, recognizing their leadership, rose up and defeated the State’s attack. This was unlike what had happened with the Black Panther Party and other organizations when there would be confrontations between the Panthers and the police. This time, because we organize recognizing that the people are the makers of history, this confrontation was between the people and the police.
After being militarily defeated, the State then turned to negotiations. It also attempted to use neo-colonialism in the form of an African police chief as a solution, but because of the work that our movement was doing under the leadership of Chairman Omali Yeshitela the police chief had to took up our line. Even the police chief was saying that to solve the problems in the African community there would have to be economic development instead of police containment.
The Uhuru House became an Embassy to the African World, and the police chief ordered that no one would be arrested on the Uhuru House property. This was a significant victory.
In 1999, the APSP organized the first Conference to Build the African Socialist International in London, England inviting various organizations of African people to take part in building the ASI. This was to be the first conference of several that would bring Africans from around the world together in attempt to win organizations and individuals to this effort to build this international African revolutionary party. From these conferences have come resolutions on trade and debt, on our relationship to white people.
2005: Global scope of Uhuru Movement broadened through ASI
In December 2002, after having said that he would never go to Africa without having specific political objectives, Chairman Omali touched African soil for the first time. He was to give the keynote address at the historical 8th Congress of the Pan Africanist Congress of Azania in what is called South Africa.
Chairman Omali’s presentation electrified the entire congress sparking rumbling chants of “Uhuru!” Unfortunately, while the membership showed an insatiable will to fight for the organization, the PAC’s petty bourgeois leadership sabotaged the elections that were to happen at this congress abandoning the PAC’s once revolutionary direction and the vision of its founder, Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe. This would, however open up a series of trips to Azania and a stronger relationship with revolutionary forces on the ground there.
In 2004, Chairman Omali Yeshitela’s tireless work to build the ASI reached a turning point when Africans from all over the world descended upon London, England for the Fourth Conference to Build the African Socialist International. Chairman Omali wrote a document summing up the history of the International African Revolution and the need to build a single organization to bring it to fruition.
This document would become the Main Resolution for the ASI. It had become clear that it was the beginning of a new era at this conference as the Africans in attendance — after having voted unanimously, with the exception of two people, to accept the resolution — fought for and defended the resolution against any attempts to discredit it or the effort to build the ASI.
A new corner had been turned. Not since Marcus Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) had an international organization of Africans existed for the purpose of creating a unified, liberated Africa. I
The participation of Africans from Haiti, where the U.S. government had just recently kidnapped the elected president; Spain, which has in its Latin American colonies alone 135 million Spanish speaking Africans; the Congo; Equatorial Guinea and various other African microstates was significant.
A secretary to the Spanish speaking African world was appointed and concrete steps toward building for the First Congress of the ASI in 2005 were made.
Another event in London days later featured Albert Onawelo, the brother and personal secretary of assassinated Congolese prime minister Patrice Lumumba. At this event Onawelo explained that he had been hearing of the work of Chairman Omali Yeshitela and that he was elated to finally meet him in person.
The leadership of Chairman Omali Yeshitela and the work of the African People’s Socialist Party to advance the interests and understandings of the African working class has ushered the International African Revolution to a different place. With the leadership of the African People’s Socialist Party, the African working class is now taking history into its own hands and forging a united, liberated, socialist Africa!